One strategy that always works in movie publicity is, when you put your foot in it, just apologize, take your lumps, and move on. Few, however, seem capable of this, and Doctor Strange has been in a mess for months over its whitewashing controversy. And the latest go-round is unlikely to change any minds.
To recap, Tilda Swinton, a white woman, was cast as the Ancient One, shown to be Asian in the comics, and this news arrived right in the middle of a lengthy if sometimes lighthearted conversation about difficulties Asian actors face getting cast and finding roles. To be fair, Marvel was always going to have a bit of a problem since Doctor Strange, as a comic, is pretty heavily rooted in Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s grasp of Asian culture, and remember this was the 1960s; most people thought chop suey was authentic Chinese food. There’s no better example of this in the early comics than Wong, Strange’s butler/bodyguard, and originally Wong’s stereotypical origins meant he was going to be left out, according to director Scott Derrickson:
I was going to leave Wong out of the movie at first; he was an Asian sidekick manservant, what was I supposed to do with that? But once the decision was made to cast Tilda, we brought Wong back because unlike the Ancient One, he could be completely subverted as a character and reworked into something that didn’t fall into any of the stereotypes in the comics.
On the one hand, it’s nice to see Wong, a character Marvel has struggled with in the past, get a shot. On the other, it doesn’t really explain why he couldn’t have cast, say, Michelle Yeoh or someone along those lines for the role, and it’s likely the movie is going to keep getting flack for this issue right up until it comes out. We’ll see what Strange does for its characters November 4.
(Via the Mary Sue)